Jim held Addison’s hand and guided her along the path past the tulip garden and the wishing fountain. Jim noticed the young man tossing a coin into the fountain, the bearded gentleman standing behind him, one hand on the boy’s shoulder, the other making gestures as if he was explaining the reasoning behind the offering. A slender woman with curly hair sat on the bench behind them next to a stroller. On the far side of the fountain, Jim saw a couple playing with their dogs. He was attempting to observe everything. He was looking for anything out of the ordinary.
Jim’s heart was trying to control the quickness of his heart, but he was nervous. He tried not to think about what he was going to say to the girl when the found a place to stop and talk, but the thought persisted. There were many times, Jim thought, that taking a mark to a secluded place to “share” something with them was easy. He’d done it countless times before. But this girl was special because someone had told Jim to find her. She was not another face in the crowd to seduce and con out of a large sum of money. Sure there was money involved, but usually Jim was the only person interested in making contact with these women. He had been warned, though that the clock was ticking on this one. Jim knew that in order to get her to trust him quickly, he was going to have to lie to her.
Addison did not know anything about this man but thought he seemed trustworthy. There were things he knew about her that no one would know unless they knew her family. She was afraid to say yes to following him, but when he said she might be in danger, she reacted and let him lead her across the street from the diner to the park.
She tried rationalizing the situation to combat the fear. But it overtook her after passing the fountain and her feet stopped moving.
“Don’t stop, please” Jim said to her. She could see the urgency in his face. “We have to keep moving. We’re going to meet someone here in the park and they don’t have time to wait.”
Meet someone, she thought. He didn’t say that before.
“Ok, what? I’m seriously going to start freaking out if you’re going to keep surprising me. I didn’t know we were meeting someone. You just said we needed to get away from people who might be after me.”
“Right” he said. “And I have a friend that is going to take us somewhere safe.”
“But why are we meeting him in the middle of the park?” she said. She was feeling the doubt and panic now.
“Look, you just have to trust me. Or you can turn back and someone else will pick you up. And they’re going to be . . . rough with you.”
Addison thought Jim looked on the verge of panic, too. If this guy’s conning me, he’s had some experience faking.
Antonia was knitting. Her grandson was due a month away, and she wanted to have this sweater ready to keep him warm. She had to knit through intermittent pain because her arthritis would sometimes flair. When the pain would swell, she would look up and breathe deeply until it subsided. On this day she looked up just as a young man and woman were briskly walking on the path past her. The man was leading the girl behind him, and they both looked to Antonia like they were lost and frustrated. Her pain had died away, but Antonia could not help but watch the two as the came closer to her. When the were nearly in front of her bench, the girl broke grip with the man and started to protest. She was flailing her arms, stomping her feet, and shouting at the man. Antonia only spoke Russian, so she did not understand what the two of them were arguing about, but it did not seem that they were a couple. If they had been, Antonia, thought, the man would have tried to take her hand again in a reassuring way. Instead he put his face in his hands and started to cry. Language barrier aside, it sounded fake to Antonia. However, the girl seemed to act apologetic toward the man. This surprised Antonia, because she didn’t think this girl would be so gullible. She wished she knew how to speak to her and tell her to leave the man, but all she knew how to say was “Go”. She shouted it to her several times before the man turned and said something Antonia assumed was rude, judging by the look on his face. She decided to go back to her knitting, and the girl took off the way she had come. The man followed, shouting.